Plants & GHGs

The NZAGRC’s former nitrous oxide and soil carbon work streams were combined into one programme this year. This ensures a strong overall framework, closer communication and full GHG analyses across the programme. The programme focusses on three key areas:

1. Identifying and prioritising plant traits for low GHG emissions;

2. Mitigation practices to maintain soil carbon and reduce nitrous oxide emissions at paddock scale; and

3. Defining the achievable soil carbon stabilisation capacity of New Zealand grassland soils.

Current progress and research stories

Using alternative forage species to reduce emissions of the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide from cattle urine deposited onto soil

Luo, J., Balvert, S. F., Wise, B., Welten, B., Ledgard, S. F., de Klein, C. A. M, Lindsey, S., Judge, A. (2018). Using alternative forage species to reduce emissions of the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide from cattle urine deposited onto soil. Science of the Total Environment, 610-611, 1271-1280. 


Grazed pastures are a major contributor to emissions of the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide (N2O), and urine deposition from grazing animals is the main source of the emissions. Incorporating alternative forages into grazing systems could be an approach for reducing N2O emissions through mechanisms such as release of biological nitrification inhibitors from roots and increased root depth. Field plot and lysimeter (intact soil column) trials were conducted in a free draining Horotiu silt loam soil to test whether two alternative forage species, plantain (Plantago lanceolate L.) and lucerne (Medicago sativa L.), could reduce N2O emissions relative to traditional pasture species, white clover (Trifolium repens L.) and perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.). The amounts of N2O emitted from the soil below each forage species, which all received the same cow urine at the same rates, was measured using an established static chamber method. Total N2O emissions from the plantain, lucerne and perennial ryegrass controls (without urine application) were generally very low, but emissions from the white clover control were significantly higher. When urine was applied in autumn or winter N2O emissions from plantain were lower compared with those from perennial ryegrass or white clover, but this difference was not found when urine was applied in summer. Lucerne had lower emissions in winter but not in other seasons. Incorporation of plantain into grazed pasture could be an approach to reduce N2O emissions. However, further work is required to understand the mechanisms for the reduced emissions and the effects of environmental conditions in different seasons.

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